In a conversation with a fellow student, it became clear to me what agenda many students in Germany are pursuing: the left should become the new center. What happens on campus leaves no one unmoved. Because it gives a foretaste of the political and social tomorrow in this country.

Conversations about democracy and society are omnipresent at the university – especially in the humanities subjects. It wasn’t long ago that I had a heated discussion with a fellow student. The reason was the federal government’s “Democracy Promotion Act”, which the traffic light coalition has been arguing about since it was presented in December 2022.

“Strengthening democracy and giving civil society more responsibility is exactly the right way,” said Franziska.

“Yes, democracy concerns us all and political education is extremely important,” I nodded. “But,” I added, “I don’t think it’s the state’s job to subsidize civic engagement with a lot of money.”

And then Franziska said something that made me even more skeptical: “Above all, the flaring right-wing extremism must finally be contained!”

I replied: “But unilaterally sponsoring groups that are sometimes radical left-wing is out of the question for me.”

That the Democracy Promotion Act aims on paper to counteract “racism, anti-Semitism, antigypsyism, Islamophobia and Muslimophobia, queerphobia, misogyny, sexism, hostility to people with disabilities and extremisms such as right-wing extremism, Islamist extremism, left-wing extremism” as well as “hatred on the internet, disinformation and science denial I actually think it’s right to declare it a threat to democracy.

However, the question of implementation does not seem to be resolved. Why is it so difficult for the government coalition – as suggested by the FDP – to introduce an extremism clause in the law in order to exclude the support of left-wing radical groups? Why does Minister Paus repeatedly emphasize the danger of right-wing extremism as the main reason for the project, but not any threat to democracy from anti-democratic groups, which, according to the population, currently sometimes come from the Islamist field?

Franca Bauernfeind (born 1998) is currently studying for a master’s degree in political science at the University of Erfurt. The enthusiastic competitive swimmer, violinist and choir singer is a scholarship holder of the Hanns Seidel Foundation, is involved in various university committees and is active as a journalist. Franca Bauernfeind became known nationwide as federal chairwoman of the Ring of Christian Democratic Students (RCDS) and member of the federal executive board of the CDU.

I know the thinking behind these proposed laws (let’s call it a half-baked draft) all too well from campus. And it doesn’t surprise me how such ideas about democracy come about: universities always breed the leaders of tomorrow.

These are the prospective teachers, the judges and lawyers, the department heads in the authorities in this country, the informing and opinion-forming journalists, it is the many team leaders who will one day be employed in medium-sized companies – and last but not least, it is the future politicians who will govern us.

Many of them have studied at colleges and universities or are still doing so. And they are shaped by the debate (un)culture that predominates there today, which leads to a radical shift: everything that is not left-wing deviates more and more from the mainstream, the old center is disappearing, because the left is supposed to be made the new center there become.

Democracy thrives on diversity. Exclusion and contempt for those who think differently by left-wing groups in the name of democracy is not diversity. The situation is similar at universities. Even people who have something against left-wing positions are silenced. Often through cancel culture, sometimes through slander campaigns.

In Bayreuth, a student fell victim to a campaign that turned him into a sexist and misogynist. The reason for this was a statement that was deliberately misinterpreted in order to discredit the unpopular CDU member.

At other universities, student funds are sometimes misappropriated without evidence – as in Hanover – for one-sided left-wing projects and lecture series – there is no trace of diversity, neutrality and an understanding of democracy permeated by a wide range of opinions. Your own clientele is supported, makes an opinion and tries to get through – especially with money.

At the beginning of January 2023, the AStA at the University of Siegen organized trips to Lützerath for a large demonstration in the Rhenish lignite mining area. The campaign was subsidized by the AStA at the University of Kassel – all through student money. “Critical introductory days” are paid for every year at German universities. In addition to Karl Marx’s long-running favorite “Capital,” the “postmodern metamorphoses of patriarchy,” for example, are also covered.

Black Box Uni: Biotop left Ideologies

I fear that structures similar to those that already exist on campus will increasingly be felt by the general public in the future, fueled by projects such as the Democracy Promotion Act. Those supported by this and whose brainchild such suggestions are were recently students. NGOs and associations that could be supported in particular by such a law are classic employers of people who create their own jobs in the spirit of democracy.

This “good” goal is with all honor, but it does not always hide the true value of democracy: compromise and the struggle for a balanced solution. Organizations are already receiving funding from the federal government’s “Living Democracy” program: the left-wing Amadeu Antonio Foundation alone received around one million euros from taxpayers’ money for nine projects in two years. It was also planned to support the organization United4Rescue, which undermines an orderly migration policy under the guise of sea rescue, with two million euros from federal funds.

Even in the grand coalition, a democracy promotion law was not passed because the SPD could not be persuaded to adopt a balanced extremism clause. Why not? Consequently, the FDP is now calling for such a clause again, because Minister Paus is rightly considered to be completely unreliable in wanting to create real diversity.

I am convinced that it is the state’s sole responsibility to ensure security in our Federal Republic. And it is primarily not the responsibility of associations or NGOs to persecute extremists. Civil society engagement and political education take place and honor every citizen who supports our democracy. Preserving this diversity is the responsibility of all of us.

But prosecuting enemies of our system remains solely the job of the executive branch under our Constitution. A farce, even an unreasonable statement for every citizen, was the statement made by the President of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang.

The criminal law draws the ultimate limits of freedom of expression, he said. But expressions of opinion “even below the criminal law limits and without prejudice to their legality (…) could be relevant under constitutional protection law.”

I’m sorry, what?

“Let’s turn the tables,” I said to my fellow student Franziska. “Imagine if other parties with different ideological ideas were in power and were planning a law that only targets left-wing extremism and accepts sponsoring right-wing ideological groups.”

She looked at me in surprise. “That would be something completely different! Incidentally, something like this would never be confirmed by the Federal Constitutional Court!”

“Oh right? “Now all of a sudden?” I just thought and was once again amazed at how double standards are used here.

This sometimes makes me fear for our future. I’m worried that the toxic battle at universities will eat into society as a whole in the next few years.

What happens on campus leaves no one unmoved. Because the events at the university today offer a journey through time into the social and cultural tomorrow. What is thought about there in seemingly insignificant niches can tomorrow permeate an entire country as mainstream. In the good – but especially in the bad.

Universities used to be places of intellectual innovation and cultural progress. Are they harbingers of a frightening future today?

I am an optimist. I dream of a greater return to democratic values ​​and political education that is based on balance – not only on campus, but also in society as a whole. But that will be a big task.

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